on 29 December 2003
"Blank generation" is a movie featuring punkrocker Richard Hell and his band The Voidoids made by germanborn director Ulli Lommel (Cocaine cowboys, Boogeymen etc.) Made as a story of love/hate between Punkrocker Billy (Hell) and his girlfriend, a french TV-journalist (Carole Bouquet, the "Bond Girl" in For your eyes only), is the highlists of the movie without doubt the studio- and liveperformances (from the legendary CBGB) of Richard Hell and the Voidoids . Seen in a minor role is Andy Warhol which surely has caused that more people are aware of this movie than wihout his 5-minute appearance. "Blank generation", made in 1979, is one of the few documents from the age of punk and have been called a dark slice of the Punk life that was. The movie was filmed entirely on location in the streets and clubs of New York City`s Lower East Side and became a sensation of the London underground scene in the early `90`s. (movie also icludes director Lommel`s own "favourite", Suzanna Love)
A multi prism with a few major fundamental flaws; it operates primarily as a bus window depiction of 1970's New York, that has long since disappeared under regenerated flatulence. This film documents a time before the huge inner city cash injection, lit up the moderne boredom with a million halogen lamps, hanging limply in designer pads to provide you with "Friends." It has a guest appearance by the King of Ennui, Andy Warhol, who appears as a sage in his latter years.
Richard Hell and his girl, a former Bond starlet, are stuck in a film trailer; trying to punch their way out into something with grit. As an insight it depicts his band, plus his poor acting ability, which is dressed up by the way with a complete lack of punk credentials. There is nothing that would distinguish this from from any other rock flick of the era and quite why he fell for it is a little disconcerting.
The live footage captures the angst of his personal performance, as he plays bass and sings with Quine, wrenching the guitar at CBGB's.
But unfortunately the rest of the film lacks any creative tension and any understanding. It falls flat as a document of the era, lacking the inner view only to show you something historical and this is where it held my interest. But as a straightforward projection onto an era it fails to capture the internal visceral anger boiling and frothing as a searing acid. It lacks emotions and there was plenty of those in operation during this time. It is a sanitised emotionally vapid film.
In retrospect it gains some points showing New York at it was - a time that has long since passed. It does transport you somewhere else, but not to the emotional zeit of an era, as it simply allows you to become a tourist on a bus in New York. It is an airbrushed version of the real world as anyone who was there at the time will tell you, if you stepped out of the mainstream you were beyond the law - as the 1970's in general was. I only realise that now because in the 21stC it is so safe, sanitised and secure.
"Blank Generation," rendered by Richard, is actually a take from the "Beat Generation," a paen written previously and in retrospect, although he was a great sigifier Hell's band when recorded lacked the haymaker punch of UK punk rock, with its guitar meandering when placed upon the vinyl. However here displayed live, it kicks the album version into obscurity as he finally harnesses his manic energy into something which transcends the film.
The five minute clip is faraway the best thing about this piece. So if you want to travel back as a tourist to New York and see Richard Hell live, then this is your bag.
If you want to see a film about action and events with a plot with meaning, then look elsewhere.